Having diverse characters in children’s books is important because it allows children to reflect on their own identity and develop empathy for others. For the Read Aloud Project, we have made a concerted effort to read books with diverse characters. Examples of books we have read include We Are A Rainbow by Nancy Tabor, Grace For President by Kelly DiPucchio, The Sandwich Swap by Kelly DiPucchio and Queen Rania of Jordan, Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, and The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. As the project carries on, I continue to look for books to recommend to volunteers. This led me to attend an EmbraceRace webinar titled “Choosing Good Picture Books Featuring Black, Indigenous and People of Color Characters."
During the webinar, I was introduced to the Diverse Book Finder, which is a comprehensive collection of children's picture books featuring Black and Indigenous people and people of color. In the Diverse Book Finder, books are separated into nine categories: Any Child, Beautiful Life, Biography, Cross-Group, Folklore, Incidental, Informational, Oppression & Resilience, and Race/Culture Concepts. For books in the Any Child category, race, ethnicity, culture, and religion are not important to the storyline and could be left out without changing the story. On the other hand, cultural elements play a central role for the books in the Beautiful Life category. Cross-Group books include characters from different backgrounds and examine their relationship. The Incidental category features main characters that are white or animals with secondary characters of color. Books in the Race/Culture Concepts category compare different cultural elements.
The co-founders of Diverse Book Finder, Krista Aronson and Anne Sibley O'Brien, spoke about how some racial and cultural groups are only portrayed in certain categories of books. For example, a majority of books with Asian characters are focused on Asian culture(Beautiful Life) and folklore. Most books with Asian characters also do not cover Oppression & Resilience. Focusing on certain aspects while ignoring others can lead children to form negative perceptions about a racial or cultural group. The webinar has made me more aware of the books I choose to recommend and read for the Read Aloud Project. If you are interested in recording a video for the project, please email [email protected] Here is a link to the webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/play/vcYod-D-pjw3S4ad5gSDA_NwW9W5eP2s0CZP-vELyxmwUXFXNlH3broVZ7TBUPl35ZgHZ7-8fFh_OXzE.